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2004 Futures Game bios
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07/09/2004  8:08 PM ET
2004 Futures Game bios
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U.S. Team Roster

Joe Blanton (Athletics) Pitcher
Blanton was the second of four first-round picks by the A's in the 2002 draft, going 24th overall out of the University of Kentucky. The righthander gets his fastball into the mid-90s and has impeccable control. In 2003, Blanton dominated two levels in his first full season, posting a 2.29 ERA and ranking second in the National Association with 174 strikeouts. The 6-3, 225-pounder tossed 25 consecutive scoreless innings at one point, capped by a complete-game, 11-strikeout shutout. The 23-year-old Blanton began this season at Class AAA and went 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA through his first month.

Bryan Bullington (Pirates) Pitcher
The first overall pick of the 2002 draft went 13-5 with a 2.52 ERA between two Class A levels in his debut season last year. He went 5-1 with a 1.39 ERA in eight outings in the lower-level Class A South Atlantic League before earning a promotion to the Carolina League in May. In Class AA to begin 2004, Bullington went 6-3 with a 3.86 ERA through the first three months of the season. He won three straight starts May 16-27. The 6-5, 220-pound righthander out of Ball State University, Bullington throws a low-90s fastball with deception from a three quarters arm slot. He also has a good curveball and a developing changeup.

Matt Cain (Giants) Pitcher
The Giants' first-round pick in the 2002 draft, Cain gets his fastball into the mid-90s with good location. He complements the heater with a changeup and a power curveball. In his first full professional season last year, Cain posted a 2.55 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 74 lower-level Class A South Atlantic League innings before going down with a stress fracture in his elbow. Healthy to start 2004, the 19-year-old went 7-1 with a 1.86 ERA in 13 advanced Class A California League starts to earn a promotion to Class AA in June. In his Eastern League debut on June 18, he allowed three hits and an unearned run over seven innings to earn the win.

John Danks (Rangers) Pitcher
Danks was the ninth overall pick in the 2003 draft after going 10-3 with a 1.61 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 100 innings in his senior year of high school. The lefthander has a low to mid-90s fastball and a devastating curveball. In his first 13 professional innings last summer, Danks allowed just one earned run and six hits, striking out 22 rookie-level Arizona League batters. He earned a promotion to the short-season Class A Northwest League in mid-August. The 19-year-old began this season in the lower-level Class A Midwest League and went 3-2 with a 2.17 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings before being promoted to the advanced Class A California League in mid-June.

Clint Everts (Expos) Pitcher
Everts was the fifth overall pick in the 2002 draft, going 10 picks before his Cypress Falls High School (Houston, TX), Scott Kazmir. The 6-2 righthander has above average curveball and changeup offerings to go with a low-90s fastball. In his second professional start last year, Everts struck out eight batters over six scoreless innings to post his first win. He went 2-7 with a 3.94 ERA over two Class A stops overall. The 19-year-old Everts has spent this season in the lower-level Class A South Atlantic League. He went 3-0 with a 0.62 ERA in June, featuring his first professional shutout on June 20 and a career-high 12 strikeouts six days later.

Gavin Floyd (Phillies) Pitcher
Floyd, who was the fourth player taken in the 2001 draft, is a 6-5 righthander with a low to mid-90s fastball and a nasty curveball. In his first professional season, 2002, Floyd emerged as a SportsTicker All-Teen Team member, going 11-10 with a 2.77 ERA in 27 South Atlantic League starts. He pitched a nine-inning no-hitter but lost on July 24, 2002. Last year, Floyd went 7-8 despite ranking ninth in the Florida State League with a 3.00 ERA. The 21-year-old Floyd kicked off his first season in Class AA by not allowing a run through his first four starts - a span of 17 innings this April. He worked eight hitless innings in a no-decision on May 19.

Bill Murphy (Marlins) Pitcher
A third-round pick of the Athletics in 2002, Murphy was traded to the Marlins along with righthander Mike Neu for lefty Mark Redman last December. The 6-0, 190-pound Murphy has a low-90s fastball with great movement and deceives hitters with his delivery. In his first full professional season last year, Murphy went 10-7 with a 2.94 ERA in time split between lower-level Class A and Class AA. He threw a nine-inning no-hitter on June 10 and finished fifth in the A's system with 121 strikeouts. Pitching for the Class AA Carolina Mudcats in his first season with the Marlins, the 23-year-old lefthander won five straight decisions April 21-May 22 and struck out a career-high 11 batters on June 12.

Kyle Sleeth (Tigers) Pitcher
Sleeth was the third player taken in last year's draft after tying an NCAA record with 26 consecutive winning decisions at Wake Forest. The 6-5 righthander, who finished his collegiate career at 31-6, has a moving fastball that can reach the mid-90s and advanced poise on the mound. Making his professional debut in 2004, the 22-year-old Sleeth went 5-4 with a 3.31 ERA in 11 advanced Class A starts to earn a promotion to Class AA in mid-June.

Tim Stauffer (Padres) Pitcher
Taken a pick after Sleeth in last year's draft, Stauffer was a standout at Richmond. The two-time All-American gets great movement on his low-90s fastball and supplements it with above average breaking pitches. The 22-year-old Stauffer made his professional debut in the advanced Class A California League this spring and went 2-0 with a 1.78 ERA in six starts to earn a promotion to Class AA in early May. After going 3-2 with a 2.63 ERA in eight Southern League starts, he was promoted to Class AAA in late June.

Brad Thompson (Cardinals) Pitcher
A 16th-round pick in the 2002 draft, Thompson has made only five professional starts before beginning the 2004 season in the Class AA Tennessee Smokies rotation. The 22-year-old righthander proceeded to set a Southern League record by stringing together 49 scoreless innings to begin the season. Dating back to last August, he pitched 57 2/3 consecutive scoreless frames. He won seven straight starts, including back-to-back, seven-inning shutouts to begin May, and was 7-1 with a 1.76 ERA when promoted to Class AAA in June. The 6-1, 190-pound righthander has a sinking fastball clocked in the low-90s and an baffling slider.

Koyie Hill (Dodgers) Catcher
A fourth-round pick in the 2000 draft out of Wichita State University, Hill entered 2004 with a .284 career average through four minor league seasons. He hit a career-high .314 as a Class AAA Pacific Coast League all-star last year before making his major league debut in September. Hill emerged as a South Atlantic League all-star in 2001, ranking seventh in the circuit with a .301 average and knocking in 79 runs. The 25-year-old is in his second Class AAA season in 2004. He hit .374 with six homers and 29 RBI during May and began June by going 4-for-6 with two doubles and two RBI.

Jeff Mathis (Angels) Catcher
Taken by the Angels between Casey Kotchman and Dallas McPherson in the 2001 draft, Mathis has lived up to expectations as a supplemental first-round pick. After averaging 40 doubles the last two seasons, the 21-year-old Mathis has displayed more over-the-fence power this year and is on pace to set a career high in that category this season. A former shortstop and pitcher in high school, Mathis is very athletic with a strong arm. Though relatively new to catching, he has shown an ability to take charge behind the plate while continuing to gain the confidence of his pitching staff.

Aaron Hill (Blue Jays) Shortstop
Hill, the 13th overall selection in the 2003 draft, was hitting .263 with five home runs and 43 RBI in his first 86 games at Class AA New Hampshire this season. The Louisiana State product and 2003 SEC Player of the Year excelled in the New York-Penn League in 2003, batting .361 with four home runs and 34 RBI in 33 games before being promoted to Dunedin. The gap hitter batted .286 with 11 RBI in 32 games for the Florida State League entry. The 22-year-old is noted for a well-rounded game, which includes extra-base power, on-base capability and a solid glove.

Michael Aubrey (Indians) First Base
Aubrey, who was the 11th overall pick in last year's draft, began this season in the advanced Class A Carolina League and was leading the circuit with 60 RBI and a .339 average at the time of his promotion to Class AA in June. The 22-year-old, lefthanded-hitting Aubrey began his professional career by batting .348 in a 38-game stint in the South Atlantic League last year. In 356 Class A at-bats, he struck out just 48 times. A pitcher in addition to playing first base his freshman year at Tulane, Aubrey has a strong throwing arm in addition to overall above-average defensive abilities.

Prince Fielder (Brewers) First Base
The second-youngest player to begin the season in the Southern League this season, the 20-year-old Fielder was off to a .320 start through his first 33 Class AA games. The 6-0, 260-pound Fielder was promoted over advanced Class A this season after being the Midwest League's MVP and the Brewers' Minor League Player of the Year in 2003. He led the National Association with 12 homers and 34 RBI last July and challenged for a league triple crown with 27 homers, 112 RBI and a .313 average overall. The son of former major league slugger Cecil Fielder has improved defensively since being taken seventh overall in the 2002 draft. In addition to producing well above-average power numbers, he has an uncanny understanding of the strike zone.

Dallas McPherson (Angels) Third Base
The 6-4, 230-pound McPherson was recently promoted to Class AAA after batting .319 with 25 homer runs in 364 Class AA at-bats - a ratio of one every 14.56 at-bats - dating back to last year. He went 3-for-3 with a homer in his first AAA game and posted back-to-back two-homer games less than a week later. McPherson, who was a second-round pick in the 2001 draft out of the Citadel, homered in five straight games in the advanced California League July 14-18, 2003 and was hitting .308 with 18 homers and 59 RBI when promoted to Class AA less than two weeks later. He had three homers and eight RBI in his 11th Class AA game on August 11. McPherson is among the minor league leaders in RBI and slugging percentage this season. Between the AA and AAA levels, McPherson ranked second in the National Association in both homers (14) and RBI (38) this past June.

B.J. Upton (Devil Rays) Shortstop
At the tender age of 19, Upton has emerged as the top prospect in the minor leagues and has already earned consideration for a call-up to the majors. Upton, who was a SportsTicker All-Teen Team member in his debut season last year, needed just 593 professional at-bats to reach Class AAA. Since that promotion in May, he has hit eight home runs - matching his total from last year. The second overall pick in the 2002 draft, Upton has superlative tools across the board. He can drive the ball with authority to all fields and has the speed to turn doubles into triples and steal bases.

Rickie Weeks (Brewers) Second Base
The second overall pick in last year's draft, Weeks has superior offensive tools and the athleticism to evolve into a quality defender as well. A career .473 hitter in college who led the nation in batting twice, Weeks hit .358 in 67 minor-league at-bats last year before making his major-league debut just five weeks after signing. He went on to impress in the Arizona Fall League with a .440 on-base percentage and nine steals. Though he has struggled at Class AA thus far this season, Weeks has too much talent not to succeed. He has excellent bat speed, power potential to all fields and great speed on the bases.

David Wright (Mets) Third Base
A supplemental first-round pick in the 2001 draft, Wright is one of the best all-around third basemen in the minor leagues. He combines power, speed and patience at the plate offensively and has good hands, quick feet and an accurate throwing arm with a quick release on defense. Wright tied for the Mets organizational lead with 93 RBI while playing in the lower-level Class A South Atlantic League in 2002. Last year, he hit .275 with 15 homers and 75 RBI as an advanced Class A Florida State League All Star. He went on to lead the St. Lucie Mets to a league title by hitting .391 in the playoffs. The 21-year-old Wright began this season in the Class AA Eastern League and was leading the circuit with a .363 average when promoted to the Class AAA International League in mid-June. Between the two levels, Wright ranked fourth in the National Association with a .410 average in June.

Jason Kubel (Twins) Outfield
Kubel, who turned 22 on May 25, began this season in the Class AA Eastern League but was promoted to Class AAA after hitting a league-best .377 with six homers and 29 RBI through May 20. The 5-11, 190-pounder hit safely in his first 10 International League games to close out May riding a 13-game hitting streak overall. A 12th-round pick in the 2000 draft, Kubel was a .310 career hitter entering 2004. He was an advanced Class A Florida State League All Star last year when he batted .298 with a career-high 82 RBI - good for second in the league. A native of California, Kubel displays excellent plate discipline and has good power potential. He has a strong arm in the outfield.

Conor Jackson (Diamondbacks) Outfield
The Diamondbacks' first-round pick in last year's draft, Jackson was the short-season Class A Northwest League's MVP in 2003. He hit .319 with six homers and 60 RBI and established a new league record with 35 doubles. The 22-year-old product of the University of California hit .345 with 11 homers and 54 RBI to in the advanced Class A California League to earn a promotion to Class AA in June. He carried a 19-game hitting streak into the Texas League and went 2-for-4 with a homer in his first Class AA game to extend it to 20.

Val Majewski (Orioles) Outfield
Majewski, a third-round pick in 2002, entered this season with a career .294 batting average and a .517 slugging percentage. With a good eye at the plate, he had struck out only nine more times (61) than he had walked (51). The product of Rutgers University has spent this season in the Class AA Eastern League. He homered twice and drove in four runs in his first game and had a 5-for-6 performance eight days later. Majewski, who turned 23 on June 19, consistently hits line drives from the left side of the plate and had already matched his career high of 12 home runs by July 2. He has decent speed for a man 6-2 and 200 pounds.

Jeremy Reed (Mariners) Outfield
The key prospect in the deal that sent Freddy Garcia to the White Sox in a trade last month, Reed is considered one of the best all-around outfielders in the minor leagues. Reed, who was the White Sox' second-round pick in the 2002 draft out of Long Beach State, led the National Association with a .373 average between two levels last year. After batting .333 in the advanced Class A Carolina League, he hit .409 in 66 Class AA Southern League games. He was a SportsTicker All Prospect Team member and the Topps Minor League Player of the Year. The 23-year-old Reed was hitting .275 with eight homers, 37 RBI and 12 steals in the Class AAA International League at the time of the trade. He had two hits, including a home run, in his first game in the Mariners system on July 1.

Delmon Young (Devil Rays) Outfield
Young was the first overall pick in the 2003 draft out of Camarillo High School in California. Though he played in the Arizona Fall League, his official professional debut wasn't until this season. The 18-year-old homered in his first game with Charleston-SC of the lower-level Class A South Atlantic League on April 8. He put together a 13-game hitting streak April 27-May 10, went 5-for-5 on May 28 and hit three home runs in a doubleheader on June 24. Young is 6-3 and 205 pounds with excellent power potential and decent plate discipline for his age.

World Team Roster

Jeff Francis (Rockies) Pitcher
Francis, the ninth overall pick in 2002, has gone 22-3 since June of 2003. He started the '03 campaign 2-7 with a 6.88 ERA through May before going 10-2, 1.83 ERA the rest of the way. The 23-year-old won his first 10 decisions at Class AA Tulsa in the Texas League this season. He leads the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts (133). The 6-5, 210 pounder, who has command of all his pitches, has fanned 10 or more hitters seven times, including a career-high 14 June 1 against Frisco. He tossed a no-hitter July 6, 2003 for Visalia against Modesto in the Class A California League. Francis, who was the second-highest Canadian chosen in draft history, is almost a lock to represent his native country in the Olympics this summer. Righthanded pitcher Adam Loewen, selected fourth overall by the Orioles in that same draft, is the highest Canadian ever drafted.

Merkin Valdez (Giants) Pitcher
The 22-year-old Valdez, who emerged as a top prospect in 2003, started this season on the disabled list with an Achilles problem and was not activated until June. Pitching in the Class A California League for San Jose, Valdez turned in his best performance this season July 3 with 12 strikeouts and one run allowed over a season-high seven innings. In his first full pro season last year, Valdez went 9-5 with a 2.25 ERA and a Class A South Atlantic League-best 166 strikeouts. He recorded three double-digit strikeout totals, including a career-high 13 over seven innings July 28. The 6-3, 170-pounder was rewarded by being selected Giants Minor League Pitcher of the Year and being promoted to the 40-man roster. Originally signed by the Braves, Valdez was dealt to the Giants with Damian Moss for Russ Ortiz.

Dioner Navarro (Yankees) Catcher
At age 20, Navarro was the youngest player to begin 2004 in the Class AA Eastern League after hitting .341 with 37 RBI in a 58-game audition there last year. Navarro was promoted to Class AAA in late June after batting .271 with three homers and 29 RBI in 255 at-bats for Trenton. He's drawn comparisons to Pudge Rodriguez because of his 5-9 size, discipline at the plate and his great quickness and a strong arm behind it.

Robinson Cano (Yankees) Second Base
Cano, just 21 year of age, hit .301 with 20 doubles, eight triples, seven homers and 44 RBI at Class AA Trenton before a late June callup to Class AAA Columbus, where he went 4-for-4 with three RBI in his first game and homered the next. The second baseman earned Class A South Atlantic League All-Star honors in 2002, hitting .276 with 14 homers. Cano, the son of former major leaguer Jose Cano, hit a combined .277 between the Class A Florida State League and the Class AA Eastern League last season, driving in 63 runs and producing 35 extra-base hits. The slugger already has 38 this season.

Shin-soo Choo (Mariners) Outfield
Choo, who will turn 22 on July 13, is having a fine season playing in a tough hitters park in Class AA San Antonio. He's hitting well over .300 when on the road. The lefthanded hitter is also one home run shy of his career-high total of nine set last season at Class A Inland Empire. Choo, who earned SportsTicker All-Teen Team honors in 2002 after batting .303 with 37 steals for two Class A clubs, is a quality defender with a powerful arm.

Felix Pie (Cubs) Outfield
Pie, the youngest player in the Class A Florida State League, is having another outstanding season. He's had two 5-hit games this season, including hitting for the cycle with four runs and five RBI for Daytona against Fort Myers in late June. He's already set career highs in stolen bases and home runs. The 19-year-old native of the Dominican Republic was co-MVP of the rookie-level Arizona League in 2002 (.321, 13 3B, 17 SB in 55 games) and a SportsTicker All-Teen selection in '03, batting .285 with nine triples and 17 steals at Class A Lansing in the Midwest League.

Felix Hernandez (Mariners) Pitcher
The 18-year-old Hernandez, a native of the Dominican Republic, is the youngest player selected to participate in the Futures Game. Hernandez was outstanding in the hitter-friendly Class A California League this season before being promoted to Class AA in July. The 6-3, 180 pounder was 9-3 with a 2.74 ERA and 114 strikeouts and just 26 walks in 92 innings. He fanned 21 in his last two starts before allowing a run with eight strikeouts over six innings in his Texas League debut. Hernandez caught scouts' eyes in '03 when, as a 17-year-old, he went 7-2 with a 2.29 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 55 innings at Everett of the short-season Class A Northwest League.

Yusmeiro Petit (Mets) Pitcher
This 19-year-old native of Venezuela left a lasting impression on Class A South Atlantic League hitters when he struck out 45 batters in his last four starts (23 2/3 innings) before being summoned to the high Class A Florida State League. Petit was 9-2 with a 2.39 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 83 innings for Capital City. He walked only 22 and held opposing hitters to a .162 average. The 6-0, 180 pounder pitched four hitless innings with nine strikeouts in his FSL debut on July 3. Petit was 4-3 with a 2.28 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 74 innings in short-season ball in 2003.

Joel Guzman (Dodgers) Shortstop
Guzman rebounded nicely from a slow April by batting .348 with 16 doubles, eight triples, eight homers and 33 RBI the next two months for Class A Vero Beach in the Florida State League. The 6-4, 200 pounder hit .240 with 26 doubles, 13 homers and 54 RBI last season split between Class A South Georgia and Vero Beach.

Ruben Gotay (Royals) Second Base
This 21-year-old second base prospect has a live bat with extra-base potential. The switch-hitter is on pace this season for 90 RBI, 30 doubles, 12 triples, 14 homers and 15 stolen bases. Gotay emerged as a prospect in 2002 when he hit .285 with a with a Class A Midwest League-high 42 doubles, 60 extra-base hits, nine homers and 83 RBI at Class A Burlington. Last season, while playing at pitcher-friendly Wilmington in the high Class A Carolina League, Gotay hit .261 with 31 doubles and nine homers.

Andy Marte (Braves) Third Base
The 20-year-old Marte, a SportsTicker All-Prospect member last season and a two-time All-Teen Team member, has been on the disabled list since June 5. Marte has 18 doubles and 11 homers in 201 at-bats at Class AA Greenville. He follows in a long line of Atlanta top prospects that includes Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and Rafael Furcal that excelled as teenagers. After leading the lower level Class A South Atlantic League with 105 RBI in 2002, Marte topped the advanced Class A Carolina League in doubles (35) and extra-base hits (52) in 2003.

Justin Morneau (Twins) First Base
Morneau, who entered this season with a .311 career average, has added power in the last few years. He's had three 2-homer games this season and has driven in seven and six runs in a game. Morneau, a native of Canada, slugged 24 homers last season between Class AA, AAA and the major leagues. The 6-4, 220-pounder led the rookie-level Gulf Coast League with a .402 average, 10 homers and 58 RBI in 52 games in 2000 and hit .356 in a half season in the Class A Midwest League the following season.

Fausto Carmona (Indians) Pitcher
In his first full professional season in 2003, Carmona went 17-4 with a 2.16 ERA, claiming Indians Pitcher of the Year honors. He was the Class A South Atlantic League's Most Outstanding Pitcher, leading the circuit in wins and ERA (2.06). The 20-year-old went 5-2 with a 2.83 ERA in 12 starts at high Class A Kinston this season before being promoted to Class AA Akron. He allowed a total of two runs in his first two appearances.

Jose Capellan (Braves) Pitcher
The 23-year-old Capellan impressed Atlanta's management during spring training with a fastball that flirts with triple digits. The 6-3, 170-pound righthander began the season with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the advanced Class A Carolina League and produced a 1.94 ERA over 46 innings. Capellan won each of his final four starts before getting called up to the Class AA Southern League in late May. He was leading the Carolina League with 62 strikeouts, including 37 over his final four outings, at the time of his promotion. In Class AA, he struck out a combined 27 hitters over his first three starts. The Dominican Republic native suffered a serious elbow injury during rookie ball in 2001 and missed the entire 2002 season after undergoing "Tommy John" surgery. He was handled cautiously during a comeback stint with Rome of the Class A South Atlantic League in 2003, posting a 3.80 ERA in 47 innings.

Jairo Garcia (Athletics) Pitcher
Garcia, who signed with Oakland as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2000, has earned a reputation for throwing high 90s heat. Used primarily as a starter prior to this season, the now 21-year-old entered the 2004 season with 216 strikeouts in 208 career innings. Starting his second straight season with the Class A Kane County Cougars of the Midwest League, the 6-0, 165-pound righty has found great success in a closer role. Garcia did not allow a run over his first nine appearances, earning five saves over that stretch. He posted a 0.30 ERA in 30 innings and was second in the circuit with 16 saves before his promotion to the Class AA Midland RockHounds.

Wilfredo Ledezma (Tigers) Pitcher
Selected by Detroit from the Boston Red Sox in the 2002 major league Rule 5 draft, Ledezma spent the entire 2003 season on the Tigers 25-man roster despite having never pitched above lower-level Class A ball. The then 22-year-old utilized a fastball that reached the mid-90s and a hard curveball but went 3-7 with a 5.79 ERA in 84 innings in the majors. Now 23, the native of Venezuela started this season in the Class AA Eastern League and earned a win in six of his first nine starts, including four consecutive wins May 8-25. Ledezma struck out a season-high 10 batters in eight scoreless innings against Norwich May 30 and tossed eight scoreless innings in his next start to finished tied for the Eastern League lead with four wins in May. The 6-3 lefty also spun a two-hit shutout - the first of his career - against the Altoona Curve June 26.

Arnuldo Munoz (White Sox) Pitcher
The 22-year-old Munoz possesses a quality curveball and utilizes quick arm action to throw a fastball that touches 90. The 5-9 southpaw entered this season with an 18-11 record and 312 strikeouts in 257 career innings. Munoz earned Pitcher of the Year honors in the Dominican Winter League in 2002. Despite spending a majority of his career in the bullpen, Munoz began 2004 as a starter for the Birmingham Barons of the Class AA Southern League. He adapted quickly, earning a win in each of his first four starts to finish tied for the minor-league lead with four wins through the end of April. Before being recalled to Chicago on June 15, Munoz was tied for the league lead with seven wins, had produced a 2.05 ERA and had struck out 68 batters - fifth best in the circuit. After a spot start for the White Sox, Munoz joined the Charlotte Knights of the Class AAA International League.

Juan Perez (Red Sox) Pitcher
After finishing fourth in the Florida State League with 18 saves in 2003, the 23-year-old southpaw has continued to be one of the most effective relievers in the Red Sox organization. Perez, who was originally believed to be three years younger, did not allow a run over his first seven appearances with the Portland Sea Dogs of the Class AA Eastern League this season. In 10 relief appearances (May 19-June 18), the Dominican Republic native went 1-0 with three saves, allowing one earned run and fanning 15 batters in 16 1/3 innings. A converted starter, Perez has finished over 40 combined games since moving to the bullpen in 2003, notching 21 saves over that span.

Andres Blanco (Royals) Shortstop
Despite just turning 20-years-old, Blanco has emerged as one of the best shortstops in the National Association and arguably the best defensive players in the Royals system. The native of Venezuela, who earned all-star honors in the Carolina League in 2003, hit safely in seven consecutive games with the Wichita Wranglers of the Class AA Texas League in April before making his major-league debut while filling in for injured shortstop Angel Berroa in Kansas City. The switch-hitter hit .259 (7-for-27) in nine games with the Royals. Blanco, who has yet to hit a home run in nearly 1 ,000 career at-bats, compensates for a lack of power with speed on the bases and a quick stroke that produces consistent contact.

Jesus Cota (Diamondbacks) Outfield
A 14th-round pick of Arizona in 2000, Cota earned MVP honors in the rookie-level Pioneer League in 2001 and drove in a league-best 101 runs in the Class A California League the following season. The native of Mexico recorded 90 extra-base hits over his first two pro seasons but was plagued by a hip flexor in 2003, managing just 20 extra-base hits in 98 games for Class AA El Paso. After missing most of April, the 6-3, 220-pound outfielder hit .403 (25-62) and knocked in 22 runs in 16 games, including a two-homer effort on May 5, in the California League this year. In mid-May, Cota made a return to the Texas League and hit .317 with six homers and 20 RBI in June.

Edwin Encarnacion (Reds) Third Base
Originally a ninth-round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2000, Encarnacion was traded to the Cincinnati Reds with Ruben Mateo for righthander Rob Bell in 2001. A native of the Dominican Republic, Encarnacion emerged as a Class A Midwest League All Star in 2002, ranking fourth in the circuit with 17 homers and fifth with 237 stolen bases. He also produced a .282 average, 73 RBI and 25 steals that season. Last year, the 6-1, 195-pound Encarnacion split time between the Class A Carolina League and the Class AA Southern League and finished sixth in the Reds system with a .294 average. Encarnacion has spent this season at Class AA and was hitting .291 through July 6.

Jorge Cortes (Pirates) Outfield
A native of Columbia, Cortes was the South Atlantic League's MVP last year, hitting .325 with eight homers and 66 RBI. He also played in 37 games in the Carolina League, hitting .264. Cortes was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 1997 at the age of 17. The now 23-year-old Cortes has spent 2004 in the Carolina League and hit .333 with 14 extra-base hits during June. The lefthanded-hitting Cortes displays excellent discipline at the plate. He led the South Atlantic League with a .427 on-base percentage last year.

Willy Tavares (Astros) Outfield
A 22-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, Tavares is a solid contact hitter with excellent speed, swiping 202 bases in 413 games entering this season. The 6-0, 160-pound centerfielder earned all-star honors in the South Atlantic League in 2002 and the Class A Carolina League in 2003 as a member of the Cleveland Indians organization before being selected by Houston in the 2003 major league Rule 5 draft. Tavares did not make the Astros out of spring training, but Houston retained his rights by trading pitcher Jeriome Robertson to the Indians. He began the season with Round Rock of the Class AA Texas League and hit safely in 29 of his first 32 games. Tavares, who set a career high with 57 stolen bases in 2003, tied for second in the National Association with 18 steals this past May. Tavares, who is arguably the best outfield prospect in the Astros' system, also utilizes his speed on defense and earned accolades as the best defensive outfielder in the Carolina League last season. He possesses a strong, accurate arm, averaging 11 outfield assists over the last three seasons.

Robinzon Diaz (Blue Jays) Catcher
A native of the Dominican Republic, Diaz entered the 2004 season with a .317 average in 652 professional at-bats. He drove in 45 runs in 65 games in the Dominican Summer League in 2001 and added 44 RBI while hitting .374 in 48 games in the short-season Appalachian League last year. The 20-year-old Diaz has spent 2004 in the South Atlantic League and was hitting .252 with 27 RBI through July 6.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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